The Indianapolis Colts announced on Thursday that the team has signed Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly to a multi-year contract extension.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a new 4-year, $50 million contract extension (with $34 million guaranteed) that effectively makes Kelly the league’s highest paid center in football right now:
Colts are signing former 2016 first-round pick Ryan Kelly to a 4-year, $50 million extension that includes $34 million guaranteed, source tells ESPN. It makes him the highest-paid center in the league and ties him to Indianapolis for the next five seasons.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 3, 2020
Out of all the Colts’ imminent 2021 free agents—a list that includes quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and defensive end Justin Houston among others, Kelly had to be general manager Chris Ballard’s top priority—and he got it done a little early.
The former 2016 first round pick out of Alabama for the Colts has ascended into one of the league’s best centers—having made his first career Pro Bowl appearance in 2019.
Kelly is smart, strong, tough, and athletic—with the skill-set to consistently get to the second level of opposing defenses. At 27 years old, he’s pretty much the complete package at center:
Great job by Colts C Ryan Kelly sifting and climbing to the 2nd level to line up & seal off this LB to spring the runner. Agility + balance— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) January 10, 2019
Run went for 29 yards largely thanks to Kelly's block: pic.twitter.com/7UuAiEWd4T
Ryan Kelly putting the shade in the ground. Really good initial hand placement allows him to generate leverage, lift, and torque for the finish pic.twitter.com/ZTRgy0NsXd— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 24, 2019
Ryan Kelly has been an elite pulling center this season. Check out how efficient his feet and angle are on this one as Nelson seals off Casey. Opens up that play side hip and wraps around tightly off Nelson to line up the LB: pic.twitter.com/K0evX2OyzW— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 19, 2018
Eyes on the center: Ryan Kelly's athleticism and play speed unlock another dimension for this offense. We start off with a highly difficult block for a center - back block on a 3T - followed by showing his elite ability in space and strong presence anchoring the OL at the pivot: pic.twitter.com/9yfNkyx4Qi— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 18, 2018
While injuries limited him earlier in his career, Kelly started all 16 games last season and was an anchor for one of the NFL’s best offensive lines—as the star studded unit’s ‘nucleus’:
“Really proud of Ryan Kelly,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said during his end of year press conference. “16 weeks, fought through [injuries]. Tremendous leader. Is really starting to understand about the group and bringing the group together, the o-line, and being the leader of the group. And fun to watch his growth.”
Reich said when he was hired, he knew center Ryan Kelly needed to be a key piece, but, “I didn’t realize how much of an Alpha Dog he is. … This guy has taken complete control of the offensive line room as far as the calls … he’s a really, really smart football player."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) May 18, 2020
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Kelly was their 7th best graded center overall last year with a +73.0 grade. He allowed just 1 sack and 21 total QB pressures—while committing a mere 6 penalties collectively in 2019.
When asked how he would celebrate his lucrative second NFL contract on Thursday night, Kelly had an ‘every man’ response—which speaks to the type of humble young man he is from Ohio:
How does the Colts' new $50 million center plan on celebrating?— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 3, 2020
Ryan Kelly, still at the Colts facility: "I dunno. Might pick up a 6-back of beer on the way home. Maybe some Donato's pizza, who knows? Maybe a new set of tires?"
For a Colts franchise that really had a turnstile at center post-former great Jeff Saturday’s departure in 2012—shuffling though the likes of Samson Satele, A.Q. Shipley, Mike McGlynn, Phil Costa (retirement), and Jonotthan Harrison, Kelly really has been a revelation at the position since arriving in 2016.
He should be a fixture in the middle of the Colts offensive line for plenty of years to come too—with his well-earned contract extension.